Booster club electrocution

News about an electrocution on a high school campus spread fast. Still, the details were conflicting.

Officials were quick to point out the injured men were not contracted to work by the school district. Still, they had set up scaffolding in the school’s football field and had been allowed to work inside of the campus without bother.

I heard the men had been working in Mission Viejo High School had been working for a member of the school’s booster club, and the banner they were trying to hang was for an upcoming tournament.

The issue set up a conflicting dilemma. Though school officials did not sanction the work, the company had been somehow allowed to go into the campus and hang the banner without a problem. Continue reading “Booster club electrocution”


Two friends, both convicts, and five missing women

Steven Gordon and Franc Cano were best friends – and the only link between four women who suddenly went missing in Orange County.

Both men held a troubled past. Both had been convicted of sex offenses. Both were separated from their families in some part because of their crimes, and both wore GPS anklets so law enforcement officials could keep track of them.

Franc Cano
Steven Gordon

They were convicted child molesters and transients, living out of a vehicle in Anaheim’s industrial neighborhoods. They went by mostly unnoticed, even as police continued to search for three missing women whose only link to each other at the time was their disappearance and their ties to prostitution.
Continue reading “Two friends, both convicts, and five missing women”

Released from jail but still a suspect

Eder Herrera was in handcuffs hours after his mother and brother were stabbed to death in their Yorba Linda on Oct. 25, 2011.

Facing two charges of murder, the 24-year-old street sweeper maintained his innocence during the three months he spent behind bars.

Then, on Feb. 1, 2012, Itzcoatl Ocampo, a suspected serial killer charged with the deaths of four homeless men, told investigators he was also responsible for the deaths of Herrera’s family.

Ocampo described in detail how he snuck into the home with plans to kill the family. He told detectives he stabbed them multiple times with the same knife he used against the homeless men.  He also had plans to wrap an extension cord around Eder Herrera’s neck, but Ocampo said the youngest member of the family walked out of the house before the bloodshed began.

More than two years after the deaths, and after charges against Herrera were dropped, but Herrera is wondering why police and prosecutors still consider him a suspect.

Continue reading “Released from jail but still a suspect”

180-day plan to reform OCFA

Fire Chief Keith Richter

I sat down with OCFA Fire Chief Keith Richter last week to discuss some of last year’s troubles in the fire agency, as well as his proposals to reform Orange County’s biggest fire department.

Richter faced a tense job review this year, with some of the members of the 25-member board hinting at the need for a possible replacement.

What was supposed to be a one-day closed-door review turned out to be spread across three closed-door meetings in three months.

Though some details of his plan are still being kept close to the chest – such as a possible restructuring of command staff – Richter shared some of his plans for the future.

First among them: He will still be the chief.

To read the rest of my coverage on this topic, click here.

Continue reading “180-day plan to reform OCFA”

The Dorner manhunt

The Dorner manhunt

Check out this great read from the Los Angeles Times – but make sure you have the time to sit down and really take it in. It’s a long one.

Journalists are supposed to provide you with new information, but every once in a while a reporter gets a chance to revisit an old story like this one and, with the advantage of hindsight, give you a fresh, detailed new look at it.

As a crime reporter, the search for Christopher Dorner was one of the most hectic times I’ve spent on my beat.


Hazmat coverage

I wasn’t sure I had a story, but I was confused enough to begin asking questions.

What followed were more than 15 articles on mandatory hazardous material inspections that were skipped over a span of five years, and more than $1.7 million in refunds that the county’s largest fire agency would have to issue to local businesses.

The Orange County Fire Authority’s Fire Marshal was suspended and later placed on leave. A few months later she suddenly retired as pressure increased on administrators.

Now elected officials are demanding reform and the Fire Chief is developing a plan to change Orange County’s largest fire agency.

Here are my articles on the topic going back to 2012, and how the coverage of the topic developed.

Credit card skimmers get more sophisticated.

Seems like your cell phone is out of date by the time you get around to buying a protective case for it. That’s how fast technology changes for criminals and the law enforcement agencies chasing after them as well.

Skimmers began to show up on the criminal radar a couple of years ago, but the devices investigators first ran into were clunky machines that still left plenty of risk for whoever planted and picked them up to collect the data.

That meant criminal enterprises hired “runners” to plant the devices at ATMs, gas station pumps and other places were people readily used their ATM.

The devices needed space for memory and a camera planted nearby to pick up the victim’s pin.

No more.

The devices law enforcement is running into now are as small, smart, and convenient. They are blue-tooth enabled, small, unobtrusive and less risky for the criminal who needs only park close enough to get the information transferred wireless.

“It’s like installing a virus,” Sgt. Scott Spalding of the Orange County Sheriff Department’s economic and computer crimes detail.

In this story, Spalding and other investigators shared their work with the Glendale Police Department, leading to the arrest of seven people in a sophisticated skimming scheme. They also shared details about some of the technological advances that have made these financially devastating machines as accessible as $50-worth of equipment from Fry’s.

Continue reading “Credit card skimmers get more sophisticated.”